“Violence. Brutality. It’s The Same Story, Just A Different Name…”
Based upon American author Angie Thomas’ 2017 award-winning novel of the same name, Notorious and Barbershop director, George Tillman Jr., returns with The Hate U Give, an idealistic, young adult drama which focuses on contemporary notions of inherent racism from the point of view of Amandla Stenberg’s (Everything Everything) Starr, a bright and strong-willed resident of the fictional neighbourhood of Garden Heights, a struggling and poverty stricken community infested with drugs and control from the infamous criminal gangs led by Anthony Mackie’s (Avengers: Infinity War) local drug lord, King. Attempting to balance the parallel worlds of her life at home and life at her out-of-town school situated in a predominantly white and more affluent area, Starr’s understanding of the world is turned upside down after she witnesses the death of her childhood friend, Algee Smith’s (Detroit) Khalil, by the hands of a young, white Police Officer, resulting in her grasping the reality of injustice within a society which seems to set black people up to fail as preached by her ex-con father played by Russell Hornsby (Fences).
Boosted by a screenplay bursting with substance and depth and featuring a stand-out central performance from Stenberg, The Hate U Give is an engaging topical drama which attempts to balance a wide variety of ideas with a high degree of success, and even when at times the central message becomes slightly messy and overly preachy, a particular scare tactic which might alienate and lose particular audiences who may struggle to put themselves in the shoes of someone in such a dangerous and disturbing American landscape, the central story is undoubtedly well told and follows in the footsteps of Spike Lee’s brilliant BlackKklansman by harbouring a central message which comments on the contemporary societal divide in the a Trump-era United States. Whilst the use of voice-over within cinematic releases can sometimes work with a high degree of success, particularly the way in which Scorsese has utilised the method throughout his career, Tillman Jr.’s movie does fall into the trap early on of favouring rather corny and irksome levels of exposition over allowing the audience to simply discover particular plot developments for themselves, yet as soon as the movie focuses on the central heated debate over the power and positioning of black people even now in a contemporary society, the action swiftly becomes thoroughly engaging, primarily due to the performance of Stenberg who manages to pull of being both believable and empathetic in her discovery for justice. With brilliant supporting roles from the likes of Hornsby, Common (John Wick: Chapter Two) and Regina Hall (Girls Trip) as Starr’s worrying mother, The Hate U Give is the type of YA cinema with a purpose and one bound to provoke discussion regardless of the audience observing.
Overall Score: 7/10
“It’s A Warzone Out There, They Are Destroying The City…”
After the early days of Near Dark and the ever enjoyable Point Break, the turn of the century has solidified Kathryn Bigelow as one of the most reliable and tantalisingly adventurous filmmakers working at this very moment in Hollywood. Becoming the first and only female in history so far to win Academy Awards for best director and best film for 2008’s The Hurt Locker, Bigelow’s critical success continued with the superbly crafted Zero Dark Thirty, a movie which not only marked Jessica Chastain as one of the leading acting heavyweights in the world, but one which sent a template for the type of movies Bigelow was going to make for the remainder of her entire working career. Returning this week with Detroit, a movie which follows in the footsteps of Bigelow’s previous two releases by being based once again on true and wholly controversial events, the American filmmaker directs a star-studded but wholly youthful cast including the likes of John Boyega, Will Poulter and the reasonably unknown figure of Algee Smith, within a movie which is as flexible with its’ dramatic tendencies as it is nail-shreddingly tense, and whilst Detroit feels almost too much of a movie at times, Bigelow’s latest is a superbly entertaining thrill ride which continues her riveting hit rate when it comes to hard-as-nails cinema.
Beginning with an animated tour guide of events leading up to the racial tensions present within the 1960’s era of Detroit, Michigan, Bigelow’s latest swiftly moves through a rafter of character introductions in order to set the key players up for the centerpiece of the movie which takes place within the confines of the Algiers Motel. In presenting a dramatic representation of the widely reported incident which took place between the night of the 25th and 26th of July 1967, Bigelow and journalist-turned-screenwriter Mark Boal admit to using a rafter of dramatic liberties in order to beef out a final script, and whilst the final product may indeed be a work of unsubstantiated speculation, Detroit never falls into any sort of lull to allow the audience to become that picky, particularly with a middle act which is so nail-bitingly uncomfortable that it wouldn’t look strange being the centrepiece of a Ben Wheatley-directed horror movie. With Poulter on riveting top form as the film’s leading antagonist and Boyega giving a suitably dramatic, if underused, leading performance, the steal of the show belongs solely in the court of Algee Smith, whose portrayal as Larry Reed is the true through-line of the movie and was the one character that managed to effectively bring a fully rounded breadth of characterisation. Where the film ultimately doesn’t work is in its’ belief that the bigger the film, the better it ultimately will be, and with a constantly changing central narrative which concludes with a somewhat courtroom-esque drama, Detroit doesn’t hold the prestigious esteem of Zero Dark Thirty, but for two-thirds of its’ runtime, it sure came close.
Overall Score: 8/10
“You’ve Operated With Unlimited Power and No Supervision. That’s Something The World Can No Longer Tolerate…”
Being in a time of comic-movie mayhem, where every year there seems to be more and more live-action superhero goodness, or blandness in the case of Batman v Superman, Captain America: Civil War, the third in the Captain America saga within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, could be forgiven as being just another piece of the everlasting jigsaw, an attempt perhaps to grab the cash while they can before the riskier projects come to fruition, particularly with the ambiguous Doctor Strange on the horizon, yet with a character list that basically includes almost everyone and anyone associated with the MCU, Civil War was an interesting case of whether one, it could be as poorly executed as BvS, a film with similar parallels in terms of plot and overarching themes, and two, whether the extensive cast list would endanger the film into becoming overtly baggy and long-winded. What a joy it was then to witness the best superhero movie of the year so far, with Civil War only continuing the promise of the Russo Brothers’ work on The Winter Soldier, with it being a marvellous thrill ride from start to finish, if not being as crisp and spellbinding as the previous entry on first glance.
What makes the film so great I hear you ask? Firstly, It’s cool. I mean ridiculously cool. A fanboy’s dream indeed featuring bad-ass coolness throughout. Acting? Superb and on point, particularly from Downey Jr, Evans and a stand-out newcomer Chadwick Boseman as the rip-roaring vigilante Black Panther whose brief back-story element leaves the standalone movie to do the hard work and for Civil War to show how brilliant he may become in the future. Action? Breathtaking, with the Russo’s having a clear and dedicated vision of attempting to make the fight scenes as realistic as possible with choreography that could make the creators of The Raid weep in joy. I mean seriously, both Captain America and The Winter Soldier in this were just rock solid to a laughable extreme that at times I just sat and gasped at the speed to which the action scenes took place. Clearly, someone at Marvel HQ had been watching Daredevil and thought, yeah, this is the direction we need to go. What a decision it is, with the ground-based fights making the last two Captain America’s arguably being the best in the series so far.
Although rather ironically, Civil War does feature plot lines remarkably similar to BvS, the connections between the two films stop there. This is how you make a superhero movie Mr. Snyder, this is true, full-blooded entertainment. Although slightly too long in places and the almost inevitable fact that some characters just some rather shoehorned in for the sake of it, particularly that of Paul Rudd’s Ant Man and Martin Freeman’s character, endanger the film in becoming not quite as good as The Winter Soldier, the film’s saving grace belongs to it’s final twist, one that was not given away so easy and one which created the real civil war between our two leads at the conclusion of the film after the comical, if rather splendid, battle between our two teams within the confines of a empty airfield. Captain America: Civil War does what it needs to do and does it superbly. Richly entertaining and breathtaking in places, the Russo Brothers have my complete and utter backing for the behemoth of a project which is Infinity War. Good luck to you gents, my faith is completely in you. And oh yeah, wasn’t Spider-man cool?
Overall Score: 8/10
“To Survive Out Here You Gotta Out-Monster The Monster…”
Of all the epic crime dramas to have graced our screens over the course of the past few decades or so, Michael Mann’s Heat is the top drawer example, a film in which many, including Mann himself, have taken note from and subsequently strived to duplicate in usually unspectacular fashion with only a few breaking the mould and stepping out from the shadow of the perfect combination of style and substance Mann’s masterpiece undoubtedly revels in. In the case of Triple 9 therefore, although not the perfect companion piece to Heat, John Hillcoat, director of the desolate survival thriller The Road, and the violent crime drama Lawless, has at least attempted to create something that adheres to the stylistic nature of Mann’s classic albeit with a dark, twisted and overly gritty core, calling in a A-List cast as it goes. Although Triple 9 carries much more substance than that of the many generic action films released recently, it is a film that plays inevitably and undeniably second fiddle to the mastery of Mann’s tour de force, whilst having a much darker and depressing feel, one which may leave viewers with a sense of unwitting desperation.
The storyline, focusing on deception and blackmail between a group of experienced thieves and the Russian Mafia, headed up in sheer scene-chewing fashion by Kate Winslet, is one that is primarily left slightly to the sidelines, with the undercurrent of the groups plan to engage a “Triple 9”, a scenario of a downed officer, in order to successfully complete a heist and in turn. release them from their dealings with the Mafia, a secondary outfit, providing a support and a reason for the main aim of the movie; to create the most intense action sequences possible. Although the supposed lack of substance leads to an array of questioning after sitting down and actually thinking about it. Triple 9 can be excused for effectively managing to do what it really desires, with the action set-piece in the film being directed and shot in a grit-filled sense of realism that harks back to the bank heist in Heat, a scene that has been regarded by many as the most realistic action set-piece ever captured on film. Indeed not for everyone, with on-screen violence being ramped up rather unnecessarily, Triple 9 benefits from a fantastic ensemble cast, featuring Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Aaron Paul and straight from The Walking Dead, Norman Reedus, all of whom impress, yet the film falls short of the sense of mastery others before it have managed to create resulting in a film that is solely for the set pieces, not for the bigger picture.
Overall Score: 8/10
DAN – With the release of Peyton Reed’s Ant Man this week, the mammoth of a machine that is Marvel continues to ever-grow and seemingly swallow everything in its’ path, regardless of the competition at hand. With Comic Con last week seemingly handing the hype trophy over to DC due in part to the explosion of Batman and TV related goodness, cast interviews and movie trailers, particularly that of the eagerly anticipated Suicide Squad, it seems obvious that DC are staging an attempt to sway the Marvel machine off its’ course for the time being even though they still hold the award for best comic-related movie ever in the form of The Dark Knight. So with DC winning the hype-race at Comic Con, Marvel have seemingly decided to take a seat back from the fire-fight for the time being and allow us to revel in the formation of a new Avenger in the form of Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang, the incarcerated criminal who unwillingly undertakes the role of Ant Man under the guidance of Micheal Douglas’s Hank Pym, a retired former S.H.I.E.L.D agent who had once previously been the occupier of the famous Ant Man suit. Where before Marvel films have seemed to undertake a very similar, formulaic layout, Ant Man points more towards the spectrum of Guardians of the Galaxy, particularly in terms of its’ high comedic value, something of which makes Ant Man one of the most enjoyable Marvel entries so far, and ultimately concludes Phase Two of the MCU in a rather cool and collective fashion.
The entire reason for why Guardians of the Galaxy succeeded so well last year was the unexpected turn it took from the rather similar and over-used Marvel film blueprint for almost all entries in the MCU up to its’ release, with it combining a underlying comedic element and self-mockery to the fundamental questionable concept of a team of heroes that combined a tree and a talking raccoon. Add in a scorching soundtrack and a well-chosen cast, Guardians of the Galaxy truly was one of the highlights of last year, let alone in its’ own expandable universe, and Ant Man swiftly follows suit by once again being another Marvel related success which combines a huge riff of comedy, due in part to the influence of Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish who left half-way through production, and a wonderful cast, strongly spearheaded by the one-two of both Rudd and Douglas. Compared to the spectacle of most MCU-related movies, it was actually quite refreshing to see Ant Man take more of a low-key approach, with the action only really taking place in the final act of the film after some interesting and highly enjoyable character development in the first two-thirds, with scenes in which the miniaturisation was used in a hugely comical manner being one of the many highlights of the film.
Other highlights of the film included Ant Man’s accidental meeting with a fully-formed Avenger and the way the film included Easter Eggs and references to the MCU, particularly its’ attempt to signify its’ move away from the Avengers with Pym’s statement of them being busy “toppling a city somewhere”, rather tongue-in-cheek at the destruction caused in Age of Ultron. Such levels of destruction thankfully cannot be attributed to Ant Man however with the biggest moment of chaos being caused by an enlargement of Thomas the Tank Engine in a scene with produced chuckles from the entire screening audience. In terms of the problems, Ant Man does seem to bear resemblance to Guardians a bit too much resulting in a lack of freshness from Marvel’s POV, particularly when the latter was only released last year, whilst the plot thread of the Quantum Realm seemed a bit too rushed and jack-hammered in to be truly interesting. All in all however, Ant Man succeeds in being a rather entertaining and much welcomed entry into the MCU, and in my opinion beats Age of Ultron for best Marvel film so far this year. Up next, Fantastic Four. What a time to be alive.
Dan’s Score: 8/10
PETE – Dan has hit the nail on the head. Ant-Man was another one of the MCU’s films that honestly looked a bit naff. The trailers were lacking and it felt like the whole movie was pretty much summed up within them, yet like Guardians of the Galaxy, it was a huge surprise. The journey of an ex-con turned superhero was fantastic. Instead of dropping you into a story with characters who know their powers, their limits and strengths, we actually see a someone become a hero who doesn’t have infinite wealth or training to begin with.
The story was great fun. Ant-Man always seemed a but dull to me but Marvel have the uncanny ability to create characters that are so likeable and fun that make me want to run down to the comic store and dig into the back catalogue for a little more. Now as I haven’t seen anything involving Ant-Man, I can only say that I enjoyed the portrayal I saw, whether it is accurate or not. Paul Rudd simply doesn’t age and I’m sure for many years to come we could see him playing this role because he was great fun. His comedic wrap sheet means that he can execute lines on a whim and be extremely convincing doing so. Its the character that he can embody. Yet, considering Ant-Man is supposed to have a master degree, we really don’t see much about this at all but hopefully we can see it in his next outing.
It makes me wonder how people become evil in the Marvel world. The claims of righteous acts aren’t enough to justify it for me. When you watch a massive city/town lifted into the sky and the Avengers destroying this giant threat, why would you honestly think that your squishy body has any sort of chance. The ending for said villain was rather quick and honestly it felt a little rushed. The sequence was fantastic fun but it was to short compared to the entirety of the movie but nevertheless, it isn’t the typical way we see Marvel villains go and is rather liberating to see it so.
Marvel are great when it comes to visuals but it does feel as if Ant-Man’s budget was a little smaller in the CGI department as all the backgrounds in the miniature scenes lacked fidelity as looked very fuzzy. As for the rest, the ants look awesome and the giant scenes tended to uphold the general trend set by Marvel. The music was on point and the action was explosive and funny all at once. Is it better than Guardians? No. Is it worth your time? Hell yes. Its great and I really can’t wait until he makes an appearance in other instalments and we get a lot more cameos. PS – That SHIELD cameo was pretty damn epic! 8/10!
Overall Score – 8/10
I have returned from the dark depths of university deadline season with only a few mental scars. So yeah, expect plenty of content over the next few weeks until I get slapped with another essay and a few exams…
Just a quick shout out, don’t go announcing a 3rd film before the 2nd has even released. You ruin it. So Friday we toddled into the cinema to watch possibly one of my favourite members of Marvel go kick some ass. Captain America is easily one of the most relateable characters within the Avengers with the strongest story so far.
Obviously, you would suspect by the title that the movie is about the Winter Soldier. If you’ve lived under a rock the past few months, it’s Steve’s (Chris Evans) best friend Bucky (Sebastian Stan), you know, the one who fell off the train in the last one. So it turns out he’s not dead and that the movie actually does fuck all with his character. He appears for snippets but in reality he has little change to the outcome of the movie and probably should have called the movie something a little more relevant. Yet, as a story, The Winter Soldier is substantial. Moments, which for any Marvel fans will sit them there in shock. So in reality, Hydra were never defeated. Taking Bucky and wiping his memory and using him as their bitch assassin. Now one of my big pet peeves with the story is that SHIELD sent in Black Widow but told her boyfriend; Hawkeye to do one. Now when it comes to do, Hawkeye is an Avenger and should have been involved!
Compared to other Marvel Avengers, Captain was raised in a war and naturally, you have to accustom yourself to killing some bad people. This has been acknowledged and it truly is brutal. Not smashing them with a hammer or punching them with a massive suit of armour, he’s got a fast pace that is rarely matched and the shift between him and shield is incredibly fun to watch. Then we have Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) who pretty much climbs all over assailants and then the brand new Falcon (Anthony Mackie) who kinda just shoots people while flying around with these bomb ass wings. However, I don’t think I could ever see Anthony Mackie in a different light after Pain & Gain’s titty milk moment.
I’m not going to bore you with talk of the acting or screen play. We all know that Marvel as a production company nail all the special FX and the actors are not just pretty faces. The Winter Soldier probably stands as one of the best single hero Marvel movie in many years. Even with a few moments that are a little unnecessary, the movie flows quickly with extravagant actions scenes which seem more realistic compared to Iron Man. Although Tony Stark and Hawkeye should have made an appearance, Captain America deserves an 8/10.
PS – Quicky review is to get back into the swing of things, plenty more content on the youtube channel or follow me Instagram and Twitter on the right of the page!